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drama going on. and dawson get wind to the fact that she is seeing somebody unsuitable. >> and so he goes over to the doctor's office, he knocks on the door, introduces himself because they've never met before. he says, i understand that you are making improper advancements on someone in my household, and i insist that you stop. he rapped him on the head with his cane. the doctor staggered back a few steps, reached into his pocket, pulled out a gun that he conveniently was carrying and shot him dead in his office. freaked out when he did that and immediately, um, got rid of the hat, got rid of the cane, threw them down into the privy, took dawson's body -- tried to figure out what to do with it. so he went into a closet, pulled up the floor boards, started digging up the soil that was underneath the floor boards, took dawson's body and jammed it
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under the floor boards scraping the face. but he couldn't fit him under the floor boards, so he dragged him back out again, scraping the face again, and eventually he goes to the police and acknowledges that he has killed captain dawson. there's panic in the streets, people start saying we need to go, um, murder the man who has just murdered captain dawson. and as they are marching down to do it, people say, wait a minute. captain dawson fought against dueling and wanton violence all his life. this is exactly what he would not want us to do. they dispersed. there was a trial a couple of months later, and, um, dawson's killer was found not guilty, and he, in fact, lived in the charleston for almost 20 years more. and the whole story of that has to do with the whole story of charleston and the tensions in charleston and the trust or lack
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of trust that people had with each other and with dawson. and it's also the story of the coming of jim crow when segregation is going to be made legal by plessy v. ferguson, the supreme court decision that came down in 1896, and it all kind of -- the jury that acquits the physician is a mixed-race jury, but whites here and around the country say that's what happens when you let blacks on a jury. we have to get them off. and they make a move to strip away all of the rights and opportunities that blacks in south carolina have received. >> so you messaged it took you -- mentioned it took you 11 years to write this book. how did you come to the story to begin with? >> >> one of my students at the college of charleston -- this was many years ago, 988 -- wrote
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a paper about the earthquake. i had just moved to the area, and i had never even known there was an earthquake. it was a very good paper. and i thought it was publishable, but i lost track of her, and a year later my town and the rest of south south cara was hit by hurricane hugo. and as i thought about what was playing out all around me after hurricane hugo, i kept thinking, gee, i wish i knew more about the earthquake because so much of this seems to be repeating itself. i was writing another book at that point, went on to finish that and, um, years later steve and i started talking about it. i thought i might write it as a novel. i went back to the papers and started trying to figure out what was going on. there were all these troubling questions. we couldn't figure out why people were behaving in the way they were behaving. um, for one, to take one example, there was an episcopal minister who on one of the
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nights they were camping out after the earthquake heard some black people singing hymns outside his encampment, and it made him furious. and he went out and said if you don't stop singing those hymns, i'm going to beat you with my walking cane. and, um, the people who were singing the hymns just sort of turned their backs on him and said, oh, well, we'll sing a secular song. really were taunting him. but there were a lot of examples where behavior didn't make sense. people were out in the park saying, um, it's judgment day, god is angry at white people, um, but they weren't saying it quite as directly as that. they were using scripture to try to illustrate what they meant. so we were interested in all those questions, and at some point -- >> and i finally, i finally told susan that if she wrote a novel about it, she would sell a couple thousand copies, and if she wrote nonfiction about it,
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she could sell way more because the story of what actually happened was much more fascinating than anything that we could make up about it. and, and from that point on we started digging through all the libraries of charleston and throughout south carolina. we found frank dawson's papers at the duke university and found way more there than we ever expected to find. and every time we thought we knew what was going on, we would uncover a little more, and it got more fascinating and more fascinating. and then the stories kind of bloomed into the whole wiggins story about the upcoming apocalypse, basically, that was going to happen september 29th and dawson's murder, and it just grew and grew. and we had fun all 11 years. it was amazing to us that after that amount of work we were still just fascinated with it
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and, um, eager to get back in the libraries and to work on the prose. >> for more information on booktv's recent trip to charleston, south carolina, visit content. >> is there a nonfiction be author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at or tweet us at -- now, on booktv david sirota examines the political and cultural landscape of the 1980s. he argues that the social and political mores of that time set the stage for what he calls a narcissistic america. it's about an hour and a half. [applause] >> thank you. okay. can everyone hear me? so here's how it's going to work tonight. um, first of all, thank you,
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everybody, for being here. i'll just tell you how it's going to work. i'm going to give a ab presentation about my new book, "back to our future, "which you can see right there, and then may than and i are going to -- nathan and i are going to sort of go back and forth on some questions, and i asked nathan to be here because some of his work is an inspiration for some of my work. so i really appreciate you being here. um, and then we're going to take questions from the audience. um, before we begin i just want to do some of my own thank yous. i want to, obviously, thank in these times for organizing this event. i want to thank the university of chicago and jane adams hull house for hosting us. i want to thank c-span booktv for covering this event. i, obviously, want to thank nathan again, and i want to thank all of you for being here and for being interested in this, in this book. um, the name of the book is "back to our future: how the
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1980s explained the world we live in now." and to make this presentation a little bit fun, i've included a kind of trivia question, trivia contest. not really a contest, but see if you can answer the questions as we go through this. the overall thesis of the book is as the subtitle says. it says the 1980s and, in specific, both the political and be pop culture of the 1980s still very much informs the way we think about the world today. and it should be pretty obvious, and i'll just start with the first slide. and this slide took forever to make. and i did make all of these slides, and they took absolutely forever to make. [laughter] so, hopefully, you'll like them. it's pretty obvious, it should be pretty obvious to anybody that the 1980s is -- let me turn this on here. that would be helpful. but the 980s is -- 1980s is back. and here are some examples of how the 1980s are back at
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least in our popular culture. right? so we have "top gun," they're remaking "top gun" now. we've got "rambo," they're remaking "rambo. you know, the "a-team," "g.i. joe," the lakers and the celtics in the championship. apple wuss big, then it -- was big, then it went away for a while, then it was back again. so it should be obvious that the 1980s is back, and for various reasons i argue in the book, it is back. and i don't think it's just because of the nostalgia factor although that's certainly a factor. also there's some coincidences. i had mentioned on my radio show a couple days ago that the weird coincidence, although you may see it not just as a coincidence, that 25 years ago almost to the exact week and,
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certainly, to the exact month the united states military was bombing libya, and the world was wrapped with the detention about a nuclear meltdown at chernobyl. those two things happened almost exactly 25 years ago to the month. so as much of this is pop culture, some of it is very, very real. and what i argue in the book is that the popular culture of the 1980s, the iconography of the 1980s in many ways has inspired the way we hook at real world -- look at real world events and how real world, i guess you would call them actors, behave today. so here are just, again, some examples, right? you've got the main character from "top gun," this was replicated by george bush, quite obviously. you had "rambo" in afghanistan, you have a war in the afghanistan and a lot of the way we describe it is about the
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rambos in afghanistan. obviously, gordon gekko becomes bernie madoff and all the ripoff artist on wall street. the evil guy from "tron," i'm only have joke here, kind of is mark zuckerberg. [laughter] the a-team, the idea of the private contractor you have to hire to fix your problems for you is kind of, in some ways, blackwater or at least our reliance on private contractors and how we think about private contractors. and the evil guy, cobra, in "g.i. joe," was a very clear allusion to islamic fundamentalist terrorism. what i argue in the book is that these images, these stories
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became powerful in the 1990 and -- 1980s and enduring because of certain structural changes that were happening in our economy. and i told nathan by e-mail that i was going to do this. i stole and used one of the cover graphics of nathan's book to sort of highlight how this happened. but an argument in this book is that things change in the 1980s in a way that made the storylines and the iconography of the 1980s stick in a way that they never had. and so here are some examples. and there's your graphic. that's nathan's cover. [laughter] the 1980s was the first decade that most americans had a tv, a vcr and a cable system in their home, and almost half had video game systems in their home. the 1980s was also the time of the rise of synergy, and these two things are connected. synergy meaning you see ructs a-- products across multiple
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platforms, stories across multiple platforms. so there's mr. t. cereal, and there's a happy meal for e.t.. so the ideological stories, and we'll get into what those were, but they were being total in multiple platforms in the multiple venues in a country that was more saturated with that media than ever. and you also had total integration by mid 1980, by 1983, mergers meant 50 companies, just 50 companies controlled most newspapers, magazines, tv stations and movie studios. so you have an entire architecture for the first time where the stories of pop culture and politics can be sold to us in if a way -- and sold in particular to children in a way that's more integrated and sinner eyesed than ever before. so here's what i mean by a land of confusion, right? and there's the phil collins
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thing from "land of confusion." this is sociological research, this is a long story in the boston globe, sociological research that we've learned since the 1980s, tv and movie characters can shape how we look at real world events, fiction, in fact, can shape our world even more than reality, and especially among children. and we've learned that since the 1980s. and what's particularly important to the saturation, the integration from the 1980s was the fact that a lot of pop culture was beginning to rip straight from news headlines. this is a quote from a video game executive in the 1980s just to highlight what i'm saying about that. >> and here are some examples. this is operation wolf, contra guerrilla, these are 1980s video games. so the point is to say not only
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did you have a really integrated, top-down instrument to sell everyone, and particularly children, certainly storylines, but you had many of those entertainment products actually stealing right from the real-world headlines to blur the distinction between reality and fiction. so the first chapter in my book looks at how this played out and how the 1980s revised and changed our views of the 1950s and the 1990s. 1960s. because this, i argue, and i think everybody who has been following politics would probably acknowledge this continues to be the battle that frames our politics, right? everything seems to be the '50s versus the 'of 60s, and i don't think it's the actual 1950s versus the actual 1960s, it's -- i argue in the book -- it's the 1980s' version of the 1950s versus
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the 1980s' version of the 1960s. and these two characters through this one actor, michael j. fox, epitomizes what we were being told in the 1980s about the 1950s and the 1960s. so let's start with marty mcfly. here's marty mcfly. so let's think about the storyline of the movie, "back to the future," one of the most popular movies of the 1980s, a total cultural touchstone. here's the storyline of michael j. fox. he is a teenager fleeing modernity, and what does modernity look like to michael -- i'm mixing up the characters -- marty mcfly? [laughter] i don't know if we can hear the audio. is the audio working? i don't think the audio is working. can we see if the audio can work? do we have the tech guys to see if the audio can work in here? this okay.
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well, i'll try to get through it without the audio working. maybe it's on my computer. can you guys hear that? okay. can you guys hear this? >> i don't know how, but they found me. run for it, marty? >> who, who? >> who do you think, the libyans! >> okay. >> holy -- [laughter] >> okay. so that is, that is modernity. that's what he's fleeing. and where does he flee to? >> are you telling me you built a time machine? ♪ >> so he flees to this idealized version of the 1950s. and this wasn't the only movie that was doing this. this wasn't the only culture product that was doing that. this is "dirty dancing," music it was happening with the revial of rockabilly music.
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zz top, this is the outsiders, billy joel, hoosiers, even the superman movies were about a 1950s idea of metropolis. "happy days," and then what comes out of this is the ultimate warrior on behalf of the '50s is ronald reagan. ♪ >> we'll stop that. so how does the 1980s create the '60s? ♪ >> basically, making fun of the 1960s as a time of hippies who weren't realistic about their aspirations, who were sort of ridiculous. and this television show, "family ties," is one of the best seen, best selling, best viewed television shows in the history. a funny show about "family ties," the show was designed to
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be a show that kind of idealized the parents, and i interviewed for the book the creator of the show who said when we showed it to test audiences, the audiences were much more enthralled with the alex p. keaton to the 1960s. and here's an example of how this show framed the 1960s. >> is this a permanent addition? [laughter] because if it is, i'm getting out my bombs to people of throw peoples. >> the banner's a surprise for matt. we had this hanging in our dorm room in berkeley. >> a little outdated, isn't it? >> well, the slogan's outdated, but the concept is the same. >> no, i meant the concept. [laughter] >> alex, don't you worry about the fact that there are enough bombs in the fact to destroy every living creature and wipe
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out life as we know it? >> hey, i've got bigger things on my mind. [laughter] >> here's the key line. >> tell that the neighbor children. >> it's just so predictable, that's all. every time one of these ex-hippies comes prancing in from yesteryear, we've got to get out the love beads. >> that's the key line. this is the fulcrum of comedy in the 980s when it comes to generational comedy. the '60s are ridiculous, to be laughed at, and the 950s were -- 1950s were a great time of unity, of patriotism, all of the cliches that still dominate the way we talk about the 1950s and the 1960s today, all of the cliches that still dominate our politics. and this is echoed in all sorts of cultural products. i mean, "the big chill," i have a whole sixth about it, if you actually listen to what they're saying in "the big chill,"
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they're absolving themselves for leaving behind their '60s ideals, and this becomes a major way we talk about the 1960s in the 1980s. so how does this play out in real, in our time? well, you've got all these products that come out of the 1980s that continue the glorification of the 1950s. and i want to be clear, when i talk about the 1950s, the brand of the '50s, i'm talking about, basically, the end of world war ii to the jfk assassination, and when we talk about the '60s, we're really talking about the idea of the '60s as really from jfk's assassination through to the mid '70s. so out the '80s you get the hard rock café, the swingers' craze s. then in the '60s what we've done to the '60s, subsequently, is basically
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comodified the '60s into fun things that take out all of the politics, all of the idealism, all of the principles of the '60s. and these are just some examples, right? and no disrespect to these examples, i love some of these examples. [laughter] so how does it play out in our politics? this is where it gets interesting. and, again, when i say the '50s and '60s, i'm talking about the 1980s 'version. so let's look at it presidential election by presidential election. so 1988's presidential election you've got george h.w. bush running against a first generation working class democratic candidate. what is the tactic to defeat the democratic candidate? well, the aristocrat turns himself into a picture of the 1950s. if you read his rnc nominating speech, it's all about how he supposedly grew up in a shotgun house in a middle class -- i mean, this is the grandson of a senator, this is the picture of american aristocracy who turns
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himself into this, and how does he take down the democrat? flag burning. the image of the supposedly unpatriotic '60s, and he turns him into this. that's what it becomes. how does it go in 1992? so now you've got this out of touch president who doesn't even know what a supermarket scanner is, right? versus a guy, and this is kind of on the edge, bill clinton, this picture of him on the edge of the '50z. george bush tries to turn himself into the fighter pilot, you know, the brand of the '50s. and he uses allegations of burnt draft cards and protesting the war to try to make america see bill clinton as this. now, granted, that is bill clinton. [laughter] in 1996 it plays out again. you have bob dole, a consummate washington insider, running
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against a conservative democrat, and his tactic is to turn himself back into the '50s. and say that bill clinton is as liberal as the image, the presidential image of the '90s, lyndon johnson, to try to turn bill clinton into this. here's bill clinton with george mcgovern. no few, again, granted, that is bill clinton. and in 2000 it plays out again. you've got the frat boy aristocrat, george w. bush, running against an actual vietnam war veteran, and be it becomes this. he turns himself into this, he citessal gore's '60s-seeming interest in the environment to turn al gore into, basically, a '60s grown-up yuppie. so this continues to play out. all right, now, a little bit of trivia. just, we're going to break this up with some trivia questions just to make this a little fun. all right. and we're going to give you the answers at the end. what was the name of the song that patrick swayze performed on
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the "dirty dancing" soundtrack? so if you want to write them down, a, i've had the time of my life, b, she's like the wind, c baby in the corner, d, hungry eyes. i've got three sections just to quiz you. what famous actor played the corpse in "the big chill"? christopher reeve, harrison ford, alec baldwin or kevin costner? no yelling out. and here's the third question there this section. what city is the outsiders set in? a, omaha; b, tulsa; c, amarillo; d, topeka? i'll give you the answers at the end of this. so the second chapter of the book, and i'm just going to go through about three chapters, and then we'll have a discussion, how the 1980s deified the cult of the individual.
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[background sounds] >> all right. this is, obviously, a very important image, and we are in chicago, and i'm sure there are a lot of jordan fans out there, so you'll be happy to know this chapter focuses a little bit on michael jordan. but that image becomes this in the 1980s which then, basically, is erased from its context and becomes this. this is, arguably, one of the most famous images out of the 1980s, one of the most famous images in branding history. and to use michael jordan as an example of how we started to really defy the individual in a way the individual before -- and, again, he's just one
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example -- but here's some of the things that were being said about michael jordan in the 1980s. i think he's god disguised as michael jordan. [laughter] chinese kids listed jordan and communist leader zhou enlai as the two greatest men in history. this is from the 1980s. washington post called him the most famous man on earth. fellow nba players referred to jordan as, quote, jesus in nikes." this is an example of how in the 1980s we started defying the individual who could soar above his team. it just becomes this image. it doesn't even matter that it's michael jordan anymore. so this becomes, i argue, in the 1980s a cult of the individual. this is a time when a lot of the self-help industry begins to
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explode. we see in a lot of our popular culture the movies and be television shows -- and television shows about how the individual is the savior of society, that societal institutions cannot save society unto itself. here are just some examples of these iconic products, these iconic cultural products that say the individual can save everybody. and be they save everybody with lines, and i had to include this because it's my favorite line, probably my favorite line from the 1980s because it's so preposterous. >> how do you like your ribs? >> right? it's just the individual guy who blows away everybody in order to save the entire situation. and then this becomes this. >> my main man, michael jordan. yo, mike, what makes you the best player in the universe? is it the vicious dunk? >> no. >> is it the haircut? >> no. >> okay. think about this commercial
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which is one of the most famous commercials of the 1980s says. it says not only should the individual be worshiped, but there's ohioan in being mars -- honor in being mars blackman, there's honor in being the worshiper. it is diefying the idea of being the worshiper. what does this mean? the 1980s becomes the time when we start seeing individual gurus as our saviors; religious gurus, ceos, individual ceos will come in and save companies themselves individually on their own, oprah winfrey becomes somebody who, literally, can say the name of a book, name of a product, and it can be sold to millions of people who really don't ask many questions about that. howard stern, rush limbaugh, and as i mentioned before, the
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self-help industry, that's tony robbins. the '80s saw huge growth in the self-help industry. it's focus on the self. and what does this look like today in our politics? the deification of the individual. well, i think in our politics it started with a lot of things that came out of ronald reagan's administration. one of the key things, one example, the idea of the unitary executive. that comes right out of ronald reagan. he says anything we do is in our national interests. that's a direct quote from ronald reagan. that happened just a couple years after the nation looked with concern when richard nixon no matter -- whatever the president does, it's legal. just a couple years later ronald reagan was saying this to great fanfare. and in our presidential politics this metastasizes into stuff like this. you get george bush now, and nobody blinks an eye -- or not
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enough people blink an eye -- when he says things like this: god wants me to be president. or when he says, i'm the commander, i don't feel like i owe anybody an explanation for anything. and, unfortunately, it also becomes barack obama. we have similar examples. this is a direct quote from barack obama: i'm a better speech writer than my speech writers, i know more about policy issues than my policy directors. when a staffer sent him an e-mail said you're more clutch than michael jordan, he said, just give me the ball. these are examples, but i highlight this because so much of our politics today is about saying i'm not going to ask as a citizen questions about what people are doing, i'm not going to ask as a consumer questions about what i'm being recommended. i'm simply going to say if my guy or my guru says i should do this, then that's what i'm going to do because i have been taught
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through so many different parts of my culture that the individual deity is the person for me to follow. i can actually outsource my cognition to the guru. all right. a little bit more trivia. what film was spike lee's first feature film? a, she's got to have it; b, do the right thing; c, malcolm x; d, colors. what is the name of jack burton's nemesis in "big trouble in little china." david lo pan, egg chen, wang, or mr. fuji? what famed singer performs an ode to america right before apollo creed is killed by ivan drago? aretha franklin, tony bennett,
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james brown or cher? can't believe i put cher in there. all right. so let's get to how we go from the cult of the individual to the cult of narcissism. how do we go in the 1980s from be both saying that the individual guru is to be followed and listened to, to the cult of me, to the cult of focused on me? if you have the gurus that are above the rest of us, how can you also have a culture that's saying that you can be yourself the superhero? watch this commercial. ♪ you say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world. >> okay. the brilliance of this commercial is the putting together of images of regular people with superstars. so watch this one example from
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this commercial in slow motion. that's a regular kid playing basketball. going up for a layup. and it immediately becomes michael jordan dunking a basketball. the idea probably, and i think the listed by fortune magazine as the number two or number three most enduring slogan in history of "just do it." so not only are there great individuals that soar above institutions, and you can't trust institutions, you can only trust individuals, but if you will yourself, you can be a michael jordan in whatever you are doing. and the phrase, of course, is "just do it." and, again, i use this as an example of a larger ethos, but i'm guessing everybody in this room has heard the slogan, "just do it." i mean, if you haven't, you've probably been living in a cave or shot in this country. but this is -- or not in this country. this is a global brand, so you've probably been living on
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this planet. and what does the 1980s' saying "just do it" really mean? how did the 980s define -- 1980s define just doing it? greed, making as much money as possible. and this is famous, and i cite this -- this movie was, of course, "wall street" making fun of or trying to question all of this. but this was questioning this kind of spirit at a time when so much of the pop culture was saying the american dream just doing it as an individual means making a lot of money, means making a huge amount of money. that becomes the american dream in the 1980s. again, these are just a couple of examples. there's tv, same thing. ♪ >> "dallas. ""falcon crest."
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"dynasty." and even for kids, "silver spoons," right? just doing it means accumulating a huge amount of wealth. that's the definition of the american dream in the 1980s. and "lifestyles of the rich and famous" of course. now, let's put some data behind this. this is the percentage of americans at the same time that this is happening a who say they belong to a local club or organization o. 1985, 15% of americans say they are engaged in some way in a civic organization. by 1995 that number is almost cut in half. that is a huge decline. here is a study of the top goals of college freshmen, an annual study. this is the metric being very well off financially.
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1980, 62%. by 1990, 72%. now, put this up against the data about what college freshmen were saying that they wanted to get out of college other than money. so there's being very well off financially, that's the line you just saw, and here is developing a meaningful philosophy of life. watch this number. 1980, 1990. it goes from 62% to 45% at a time when the culture and when our politics, of course, when ronald reagan is saying millionaire ceos are, quote-unquote, heros of the 1980s. all right. a couple more trivia questions. who hosted "lifestyles of the rich and famous"?
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which real-life tycoon gave the speech that inspired gore to be gecko's "greed is good" oration? donald trump, ivan boesky, michael miliken, george soros. what was the commodity being speculated on in "trading places"? wheat, soybeans, pork bellies or frozen concentrated orange juice? what was montgomery brewster's job before he inherited $30 million, and extra points for somebody who knows the name of his employer. minor league baseball player, janitor, limousine driver or a bartender? again, we'll get to the answers at the end. all right. here's the last section, and this is the section that's most near and dear to my heart; the idea of going rogue. so we've gone through how the
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1980s deifies the individual, we've gone through how at the same time it's deifying the individual, it's saying you yourself can become a michael jordan. so how, then, to explain what the institutions, what government, for instance, is still doing well? the if you're saying that the only thing that can be done well through the individual, how do you explain the regular, mundane things that government is doing well? you can't really deny them. >> i am not a role model. i'm not paid to be a role model. i am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. parents should be role models. just because i dunk a basketball doesn't mean i should raise your kids. >> now, in fairness, he is my favorite basketball player. i grew up in philadelphia, and i really couldn't stand michael
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jordan because every time they played, michael jordan would just own him. so i'll just get that out of the way. and that commercial does come in the early 1990s, and in my book i define the '80s really as the reagan era all the way through to about 1992. this commercial embodies what a nike executive calls the idea of the outlaw with morals, the idea of the rogue that you can explain the way things happen in society well in institutions as either the outsider forced the institution to do something or somebody inside the institution went rogue, went lawless against the institution. and that commercial of charles barkley is the ultimate idea of the outlaw with morals, a guy who's saying, who's really yelling at you, almost lecturing you saying i don't follow any rules. and nike made a market out of this. these are the key nike icons other than michael jordan that
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they focused on as the outlaw with morals. that's steve prefontaine, john mcenroe, barkley, bo jackson, andre agassi and deion sanders as just some example of this. the idea that to go rogue, to go lawless, to go against institutions and societal norm is the a good thing and explains how good things happen in society. and it gets echo inside tv. magnum p.i., han solo. solo, right? highway to heaven, you need the weird traveling, hitchhiking angel to save you from the problems that your government won't fix. the equalizer, spencer for hire, moonlighting. and look at this, this is the fall guy, a stuntman turned bounty hunter on the cover of a children's magazine. this is a children's magazine! [laughter] hardcastle and mccormack and
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the like, and it gets echoed in real life. up here is the rise of the guardian angels, remember that, in the 1980s? and one of the big news stories in the 1980s is the bernie goetz case which is all about this. and you've got shows like this. now, i want you to listen -- this is "night rider." listen to the intro of this. >> night rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of the man who does not be exist. >> this is the fourth most popular show among children in the '80s. ♪ >> michael knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless. in the world of criminals who operate above the law. >> with okay. so think about that. a young loner on a crusade to fix the problems that your
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government and your society won't fix on its own. and it's echoed, also, in "the dukes of hazard." [laughter] listen to what it's saying. ♪ just the good old boys, never meaning no harm. ♪ beats all you never saw, been in trouble with the law since the day they was born. >> okay. so not only are they fixing problems, but they're actually in trouble with the law for fixing your problems. they don't mean any harm, they're in trouble with the government for trying to fix your problems. now, the ultimate example of this, and really my favorite example of this because so egregious, and this is the most popular program among kids 2-11 years old when it was on in the mid 1980s. let's take a look at what "the
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a-team" is saying. >> in 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. these men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade. today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. if you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the a-team. >> all right. so let's dissect what we're really being told here, what kids -- seven million kids -- age 2-11 are being told every week. >> in 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. >> all right. let's think about what is the crime. what's the crime they didn't commit? they were ordered by their own government to rob the bank of hanoi. somehow, that was going to solve the vietnam war.
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[laughter] somehow robbing the bank of hanoi was going to end the vietnam war. when the commanding officer is killed, they don't have any proof that they were ordered to rob the bank of hanoi, so they're sent to prison by their government. so the government is very evil, the government's ordering them to do ridiculous, evil things, and they are incarcerated improperly. ..
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>> they survive as soldiers of fortune. >> they are still wanted by the government, can maintain an excellent security prison or shut down a geographically confined underground, can't catch them. they survive as soldiers of fortune. here's the last line. >> so what is the same? no one else can help. here are services that the 18 must provide in their episodes because the government can't. these are literally from the show. they conduct high level military operations rescue a hijacked 747 while being chased by the government. they bring a rogue cia unit to justice. they're also protecting small businesses from larger bowling,
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including two sisters who own a factory, and upstart l.a. cab country and a small construction company. and, of course, they rescue the kidnapped community. this is the key part. if you can find them. so who confined "the a-team"? farmers, old people, church groups, a for an african country that needs its relatives rescued, rick james. [laughter] whole cogan -- hulk hogan and others. who can't find "the a-team"? the combined forces of united states national security forces cannot find "the a-team." so what does this say? this makes the government look like this. probably the scariest scene in n
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the movie as a child. >> this is what the government ends up looking like to children. this is by the most memorable movie for children of the 1980s. this is et. this is crazy. why not just knock at the door? watch this. so that's what the government looked like to children in the 1980s. so how do problems get solved? what is the culture telling children about the ways problems get solved? they killed children this is the way problems get solved in society. >> we kicked its ass.
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>> what is it? >> it is a full ranging weber. a real nasty one, too. >> the way to solve the problem is to hire the private company, at any cost. anyone who's been watching politics over the last few years knows this is so much of what dominates the way we think about politics today. and that is that we think of, we hear so much in our political rhetoric that the government can't do anything right, that the only people who can be trusted in our society are the private contractors and private for profit corporations. this continues to dominate our debate. this is the basic thesis of my book and i want to -- i want to
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close by telling you you're the solution of the private contractor but you also have the solution of the rogue, to go road from within. this is the final point i want to make about this because we hear so much about going broke, the maverick. this game a 10 straight out of the 1980s, -- this came straight out of 1980s. by people inside the government who defy the law. here are just some examples. the ultimate line that epitomizes this detail is this line from lethal weapon 2.
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a cop unilaterally saying that i will break the law in order to solve society's problems. and out of it comes real workout -- real-world examples. the last image is, this becomes a real spirit inside our government, when you read oliver north's testimony at all about how he was "going rogue" army half of american national security. so i realize i've thought a lot that you and i will talk to nathan about how all of this is stuck in with all of it is stuck. but my fundamental argument in this book is that for so much of the culture, so much of the pop-culture that we thought was not important, that didn't get critical acclaim in 1980s, so much of it was reinforcing a lot of what we know about the politics of the 1980s. and a lot of what frames the way we think about so many issues
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today. and i know, it's easy to say that entertainment culture, especially non-critically interviewed coulter, like "the a-team," the dukes of hazard which by the way i love both of those shows, it's easy to say these were schlock. but these are sending messages to 80s children who have become today's world shaping adults. and i will leave you with the last couple of trivia questions and odu the answer. what was michael knights name before he was shot a nurse back to help? michael smith, michael keaton, michael long, michael kit. what college did charles barkley and bo jackson at 10?
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>> we will go through the answers very quickly. just so everyone can feel satisfied.
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>> so that's my presentation. nathan and i will have a little bit of a conversation, so thank you for listening tonight. [applause] >> here's what we're going to do. the format of this is, because i may be overwhelmed you/bored you with the presentation, i'm going to, we will trade off questions, three questions each and then take questions from you. i want to just reiterate, i
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asked nathan to be here because a lot of his work was instrumental in both inspiring and my work, and i drew on a lot of his work. and i should mention of course that he is the author of two books. is the author of a book called my year of flops, and before that a book called the big rewind. and there is a a. nathan is going door-to-door selling the big rewind. >> it's a total markup desperation. >> the book world is not an easy one. d. want me to start? let me start. i'm going to ask nathan a question and he will ask me question and then we'll open it up. this is the first time i've ever met nathan face-to-face,
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although he has been on my radio show. why do you think, i've laid out what i think, why it's still indoors, why do you think 80s pop-culture right now seems to be so everywhere? >> i think there is a tendency to nostalgia for a period 20-25 years. so i think we haven't gotten -- i think you are confusing. i wrote a piece for like movies, captured the '90s. and it wasn't a very good piece because we hadn't gotten to be on the '90s yet. i think we know the '80s, they've been classified. as you are going to say in your presentation, the '80s version of the '50s and '80s version of the '60s. this is one of those have
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resonance within our culture. i think i can kind of falls outside the purview of what you're writing about. when i think about the '50s versus '60s, one of the issues it comes into mind is forrest gump. i feel like a lot of people sort of got the idea of that was in all those pot craze, people reading up their girlfriends, selling crack cocaine and doing all these things. not just innocents but gullibility. stupidity. if you just blandly accept what people tell you, you will be fine. if you go unchallenged people, if you try to give away, the world might work, that doesn't early, then you'll be screwed and you will create misery for yourself and for everyone around you. >> and just as a follow-up to that, do you think that, that
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the '80s doesn't have, at least to my mind, and everybody has a different view of what the '80s was to them, but to my mind the '80s doesn't necessarily have super positive connotations to a lot of people, like the manufactured idea of the 1950s. so if the 1980s is something that we don't necessarily remember as universally fondly in the american psyche, if there is anything like that, as the 1950s, why is it still a source of fascination right now? >> that's a double thing, sort of like this is cultural warfare. there's a movie i saw about a week and a half ago. i thought about you when i saw it called the music never stopped.
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>> i don't see movies anymore. i have a four month old baby. >> i would have scoffed didn't lay out his film a few years ago. but it is basically based on a true story and its, it takes place in the 1980s and it's about a father and son in the 1960s. the father and son had a falling out. that crazy hippie music, goes to the grateful dead and the father says why don't you go to college? and then they have this, they split off. and then about 20 years later they reconnect because the sun had a horrible medical drama. the only thing that kind of reaches, reconnect some way is the music of the '60s.
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and the grateful dead. so it's this interesting thing as the father who sort of sees the music is something that took his side away from him, something that tore them apart, where there is only harmony before it is only way to connect to his son. it's this interesting, the '80s, you know, version, you know, versus the '60s kind of fighting and sort of 60s culture coming at. and is refreshing in part because when you see that line out, it's generally '50s, and i kind of conservative vision of who we were and what that means today. that kind of place i. so why do you think the '80s has so much resonance in terms of our current popular culture, in terms of our current politics? >> i mean, look, i think, i
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don't want to oversimplify my book because it's not a simple argument that i'm making. and by that i mean i think that some of its coincidence. i think you can look back and say 25 years ago almost to the month the libya bombing and nuclear meltdown, someone that is coincidence. some about were not facing the jobs that were so clearly presented to us 25 years ago. [inaudible] >> yeah, right. >> you and your buddy, gadhafi. so i think we have complexity, but otherwise. >> setting aside all that. i do think there's nostalgia. i think branding is easy if you stick with brands that are already known. so you resurrect the "the a-team" and the karate kid because you're a hollywood that
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is banking on those brands having some sort of cachet with people who have already seen them. but i also think that we have been telling ourselves you any different kind of stories that the reason why, for instance, ronald reagan is remembered as a quote unquote transcendent president is because many of the storylines embedded in this popular culture that he was reinforcing and politicizing, introducing as electoral politics, those were not necessarily the storylines that were dominating and embedded in american politics and till the 1980s. i mean, i'm not idealizing before the 1980s, but you can look at the empirical data. that data point i showed you about college freshman when many college freshmen, when you see those data point for college freshmen say the goal is to make
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a lot of money by going to college and that they're not interested in developing a meaningful philosophy of life, that i think says that before that point there was a different number of assumptions embedded in our culture that were changed in the 1980s. and i didn't have this out there but you can see it with militarism. the most amazing stat i found revolves around militarism and in 1981, 50% of americans, according to gallup's poll, said they did not have basic confidence in the military. by 1989, 85% of americans said they had full confidence of the military. and it was the most respected institution in the entire united states, and it remained at those levels ever since. so militarism itself is solidified. the idea of the military as a central institution in our
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society is solidified in the 1980s. and so i think to answer a short question in a long way, i think the reason come part of it is we're still speaking the language of the 1980s and different storylines have been introduced to offer up any other kinds of ways that we see our country. >> it's interesting ronald reagan being an actor and a great communicator. he had a head start telling these narratives that would stick and help you look at him, still a long specter, all these illegal things we did, and you think that give the military a black guy. and not give, maybe we're not always on the up and up. maybe we are lying to you. and into a ronald reagan come in and say we will defeat the evil empire. and government is not the solution, government is the problem.
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look at that, and at the time it was a pretty incendiary thing to say. the leader of the government is saying don't look to us. we're going to reduce and reduce and reduce. drown in the bathtub. >> what's amazing is the chapter that her research on militarism, i think it was 1980 reagan gives a speech about the vietnam war that andy says that the vietnam war was a just cause, which was a huge campaign mistake in 1980 at a time when, remember, 50% of the american said that conference in military. rating comes and gives this speech in the middle of the 1980 campaign and says vietnam was a just and noble cause, and the reason why we lost, i'm paraphrasing, the reason why we lost is because troops hands were tied behind the back, and
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troops were demoralized because when i came home they were spat on. i have a whole chapter on whether that is true or not true. but by the time he leaves office in 1988, a couple weeks before he leaves office in 1980 he gives almost the same speech think vietnam was a just and noble cause, we have to make sure we let them win. let them win quote unquote was a line repeated not just by ronald reagan but by rambo. literally them that was i think rambo's first line in rambo tonight. it's interesting, randall again is kind of the rambo trilogy. you guys need to go back and re- experience it. rabbo helps out his buddy osama bin laden. it's pretty astonishing to change between first blood, which is an incredibly dark sort of a heroin kind of antiwar movie. it basically depicts the character of john rambo as being
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the solitary lunatic and basically his mind shattered in vietnam. when something relatively normal happened, a, drifter, he turns into a complete the take and goes on this massive killing spree. this is all depicted as a man who is mentally ill. his brain has collapsed. they give up on us and abandon us, they could have won the war. and again in world war ii, in rambo 2, it's turned on its head and all of a sudden this isn't like dilution, like this broken, shattered, mentally man. this is james cameron and sylvester stallone depicting sylvester sold as this cross between hedonists and ronald reagan. you don't win by dying.
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you win wars by making the other person died. so again, see this complete 180. the meaning is completely reversed. >> and by the end of the 1980s, weeks before he leaves office raided and it's almost same speech, just cause and noble cause here in is not a single headline about it. not a single headline. not a story, nothing, right? huge campaign outburst, his campaign a quarter in your times, this may lose the election for us. eight years later he says exactly the same thing, not the headline, not the story, nothing. and so i think you continue to see this in the way we talk about our military today. to bring it right back to take, sir focus in on militarism and why the militarism in '80s sticks with us today. there is very little questioning of the idea that politicians major job when it comes to the military is to simply do for all
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power to the quote unquote commanders on the ground. how many times do you hear george bush say that? i'm not going to that politicians make decisions about war. in the 1980s, the whole idea from rambo to ron reagan is in the way we do wars in this country is to micromanaged, for politicians to micromanaged or tie the hands of troops on the ground. this is the way we talk about war today. it's when it comes to libya. barack obama is saying i'm not going to tell my commanders window in the work of what to do about the war. it's my job to simply, to let them do what they do best. and it is a fundamentally antithetical story that we're still telling ourselves, a new story from 1980s that we
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continue to tell ourselves. i want to ask you one more question. and i want, because you are a popular culture expert, certainly far more than the -- >> about anything. >> what do you think that there are any, some of the key differences between, this is a big question, he joined a popular culture of the 1980s and today? i will put it this way, is the popular culture of the 1980s when you look back on it more or less politicized or ideological than the popular culture is today? >> that's a good question. i think part of it is when i was a child in the 1980s, i think i was relatively unaware of kind of the case of things. i think -- that's one of the reasons why they are powerful because you don't think about them consciously. these are sub textual messages. the message of "the a-team" is don't trust your government.
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so i don't think i was cognizant of it quite in a way, and i think part of it is i feel like culture war heated up a lot. feel like we have more conflicting sort of ideologies in terms of, yeah, i feel like things are more decisive. whereas now i feel like it's so fractured. >> are you saying, because i'm trying to think about this. am i just looking back at the popular culture of the 1980s and say i can't believe what
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they were saying to me, sort of cherry picking? >> yeah, that, too. >> these are highly rated television shows and movies, millions of children are watching. i wonder if we are more aware now as a society, are we -- if you put "the a-team" on right now and gave it to preteens, if you give it to 7 million preteens, would our society -- i would like to believe that our society now, maybe as one silver lining of an overly politicized society, some people would say that's a ridiculously radical message your self to my kids. are we more aware now of the politicization of our popular culture then maybe we were in the '80s? >> i don't know. that's a good question. although i the same time i feel like i did kind of have an inkling of the stuff.
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at the risk of attacking people, when i think about conservative messages in the 1980s i think a lot about john keyes. i was never a big fan of john hughes. because i felt like they were so many overwhelming things with reactionary messages. for example, i hated -- sort of thing in chicago and i felt like the idea of fares below stay off is basically chicago and every inside it and this whole community basically this is a plaything for a wealthy white guy from the suburbs. he goes in there and kind of runs everything. the one that stands out for me, i may be stretching of it, is i despise home alone with the fast and furious. because i felt like it was class warfare. it literally was class warfare and us identify with the poor put upon abuse burglars who're just trying to provide for
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themselves. and here's this boy is doing nothing and he's not, he does anything to merit owning this giant home which i'm sure cost three at half million dollars, or like a seven have my dollars worth of special effects that would be required to do this. basically he has this giant home, how his parents did to deserve this thank him and he basically just tortures poor people are trying to read is to be a wealth. and i wanted joe pesci to murder mccauley culkin. [laughter] it would have been quite as fun. and i wrote this really, really pretentious term paper when i was in college all about how home loan and the gulf war were basically the exact same thing. and every -- to protect them think we did not deserve and it was unmerited and kind of demonize these are the people.
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so i think in that sense, you know, i had a bit of that. there are messages here. when he died, like nobody spoke about that. an interesting article about how, one of these chefs, national lampoon went from being in the '60s and '70s very anti-culture, pot and kind of crazy things to the 1980s, the magazine of john hughes and p.j. o'rourke. these are people, let's make people who are fun, people who are different. things like vacation where they go in to the poor neighborhood and the one black person and perhaps the history of john hughes movies species two nights ago when i was sick watching -- if you want to see a movie that is all of this in chicago boiled down into one sort of pristine example, you have to go back and watch adventures of babysitting.
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>> if you leave the suburbs, you will get murdered by black people. >> that's right. and so i guess, i mean, i just want to bring it back to what, what i'm nervous about, as i mentioned, a young child, is the stuff still as embedded and as stealth as it was, or as it seems to be in retrospect back then? or are we more, do you think that we are more aware of the messages in there? >> i think these were because i feel like people just kind of except. they don't even necessarily process these messages they're getting. it just kind of leads to overall hunches. the government, they're not the solution. they cause a lot of problems. and i think the answer to this is children to think critically
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and to a think like what messages are being presented. what is a tax? what is a subtext? one of the big things is just a level that they have. it's exponentially more huge. growing up the idea is that once the movie, go to your theater. and then come out of the year. but not feel like they're such a ridiculous access to think it's overwhelming and overloading. people are speaking as critically as they necessarily should. >> we would open it up for questions. if you have questions for me are for nathan, you can fire away. they will bring around a microphone and if anybody has a question, just raise your hand. >> thank you, david.
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well, both of you. the question is for you, david. i thought those lot of interesting stuff in your presentation and a lot to think about and chew on. i was wanted, i noticed it was a very male-dominated presents. and was the intention and that you're talking about the very male-dominated era? or is it that you're a guy going up in the '80s, these are icons that really fascinated and interested you? or is it that in the book there are more women examples from the time period that played a role and i should read your book, or all three? >> i make the point that there were two odd things happening in the 1980s. hot in a sense they're happening at the same time, which was much of the i think most successful ratings wise viewership wives popular culture products for
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children were very male-dominated. but popular culture in the 1980s was incredibly sultanisti-- itwasn't necessarie chauvinistic than in the past because the past was leave it to beaver, and that kind of stuff. but it was, i say it was particularly relatively chauvinistic because it was being presented at a time when actually the 1980s was a time where women were making very great strides. there was a lot of really great strides in the women's movement. one of the things i came upon, and i talk about this in a chapter on human race in my book, about the cosby show was there was a lot of back and forth in many circles about whether the cosby show was good
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for race relations are bad for race relations. what my chapter focuses on is what the white audience seems to demand since the 1980s of african-americans in public life. and one of the things that came out of the debate over the issue of race in the cosby show was that the cosby show mitigated, at least this is what some of its defenders said, mitigated some of the criticisms about why is it showing the more economically typical african american experience, and the criticism was mitigated by people who said but it's showing women in very, very commanding roles, and almost hero roles. claire huxtable is almost the hero of the show in many ways. i cite that as an example to say yes, in a book i addressed the idea that so much of the most
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iconic popular culture of the 1980s remains persistently chauvinistic, and stranger at a time when women were making real strides in actual society. >> right there and to kind of -- you know, talking about sort of the message, burn your draft card. and to me some of this is the way the left allowed the reactionary right to kind of the right in the 1960s, especially in terms of -- and remember as a kid thinking why is this getting a bad rap when they want men and women to be equal? they wanted equality of races and sexes. why would people object to the? what happened was the 1980s we allowed the shrill to our broad burning, didn't want to practice
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witchcraft or and sacrifice their children to the devil which -- and other people feel. so i think that was part of it. as far as i know that whole idea of broad burning is a complete myth. that never happen. and again, that very silly narrative persists because it's something that lets us off the hook and force us to confront the fact that our society is still messed up and the whole sort of ways. [inaudible] at the end of the day is hollywood, it's the newspapers which, as you have shown us, our own by 50 companies across the
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country that are controlling the current population, perception of the world. all right, so in the '80s they were not thrilled with the fact that by mid-1980 there were more women law students than men law students, all right? so, then not going to debate that on their show, because they are the ones running the show. >> a very quick point about that because i've been asked this a bunch of times, the pop-culture of the 1980s create the 1980s, or is a pop-culture of the 1980s a reflection of the 1980s? i get that question asked about ronald reagan. and actually think in some ways it's sort of both. in this way, that if you interview people who make
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entertainment products, all that want to do is sell. they want to sell tickets. they don't care how they sell tickets. lowest common denominator is to sell tickets. they're trying to meet the population in the shortest of short hands where they think the population is. in that sense a lot of the popular culture that you look at this kind of an archaeological carbon dating queues a terrible metaphor, of where people think their world is. because and especially by the way and the arab network television winter our niche shows. network television, for five channels, had to appeal to the widest audience. the typical screenwriter of "the a-team" was like i want is a all right wing message of america. it was i want to get to america as quickly as they can in as profitable a way as i can. whether they were right or wrong, the ratings suggested they were right. i also think there's a symbiotic. you are right. than in assuming where people
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are, if those assumptions that are made that i assumed you were here so i can't challenge you with anything, and as we don't want to challenge you with anything that might make you cry, even if what i'm challenging you with israel. so, destroyed his semi-doses i think and it made, it's kind of a truism of products that it both shapes and is reflection of the shaping. i think when it came out again, back to the issue of women's progress in the 1980s, i think it was in part both we don't want to challenge the audience or scare the audience what's actually happening, the white male audience with what's actually happening, and we don't necessarily want, we don't want to scare off the people, even if
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we're telling the truth. >> and to get back to the idea of what narratives have resonance, and i'm thinking there's been a lot of trend pieces about how men in their '20s and apparent first generation in history of the world, apparently everyone is a dude, like 20 and 29, spend all their time eating cheetos and huffing bongs and playing video games and waiting for the next transformers sequel to come out, it is all the stories about how men are terrible and women have exceeded been in almost all respects. and it's interesting to me that the story here is men suck, and not that women are exceeding men. it's pretty much every conceivable sense in their '20s. it's not a story of female progress. it's a story of men suck. so that's kind of interesting that we don't want to allow
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ourselves that nearly. >> good evening, david. i'm wondering, what did he idea for the book to focus on 80s? was at the dramatic change in people's attitudes, the freshman attitude, for example, which was startling those changes and the militarism of the society, was that like a good idea to to study the '80s as an attitude, or did you see that in the '80s culture yourself before that? >> here's the not very sexy answer to that question. because i can trace it all the way to i had the idea for this book. i was sitting at home on a saturday night, that's what i do, i sit at home and watch reruns. the cable reruns.
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and ghostbusters, which by the way i'm convinced ghostbusters is on somebody's television somewhere in america at all times. right now summer is watching ghostbusters. at least one person. and i was sitting there, and there was some scene on, and i tweet out of line on my twitter feed, i'm giving you too much information, but i twittered out some line if you're not watching ghostbusters right now, i put out half a line, and i got like flooded back on my twitter feed with people finishing the line and then adding new lines and did you see this part? i'm thinking, you know, it's 2009 at that point, this movie was 84, 85? 84. this is a quarter-century old movie, and other people are not only watching it while i'm watching it on a cable style of
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500 movies, but they're going back to movie to me. and i said there's something really weird about this. because how many, countless number of movies. and in thinking about, anything about what is watching because ghostbusters and what's important about the ghostbusters, i'm thinking what is the story of the ghostbusters? and as i said in a presentation, the story of the ghostbusters has become the story in so many ways of this really superheated political moment, that it acts as a residence right now, right? think about the story of the ghostbusters, not diagram it too much, much of a terrorist attack on new york city. goes your -- ghosts. military can't deal with it. the government can't do with it. the city will shut down.
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who i going to call? the private for-profit company, right? the reason, why i think the movie endured is not just because it's funny, but because too many people, it makes sense that and so then the question is, wait, why does it make sense? because of a terrorist attack actually hit new york city, this is the opposite of what would probably happen, even today in a reagan eyes, radicalized politics. even today, most likely the first response would be the government and the military. even though that's not what our politics tells us and that's not what 1980s popular culture tells us. so from there i said, well, when you think about that and start thinking about other things. where it took me from their, the step that got me was something that's been bothering me for a long time in the bush era and now the obama era, which is not just military, what really irks
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me and the earth to me about the last few years, out of all of the issues in politics is absolute deference to military officials. the idea that we should never question military officials, never question military decisions, that our elected officials, their job is to never question the pentagon. when i went back and start thinking about this and looking up george bush's books, he was more explicit than obama when he was saying i'm not going to politicize anymore and i'm going to get in the wake of our troops and our commander at one point he made a comment that some reporter asked him, is this were going to end? he said i'm not going to answer that question. that's going to be a question our commanders are going to answer. and that is so fundamentally upsetting to me as an american, as somebody who is happy to live in a country that is supposedly
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different from other national security states, where whatever the military says is what goes, and i started looking at that and i started thinking back to well, wait a minute, why does this make sense to anybody? it should make sense to any american invasion is what the constitution is. i started thinking about why before the iraq war, or even during part of the iraq war when i heard is that i'm not even flinch as much as i should have been flinching? when you start beating it back is because it leads to these assumptions, and go back to the second slide, that particularly children but even adults get so much of their worldview, not just from real-world events, but from the stories we've been telling ourselves. so that's a long answer to a very good question.
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>> i don't know from where but somewhere i got the impression that basically our culture and i basically government politics repeats kind of every 30 years. essentially, the '60s is the 30, the '90s is the '60s. so obviously the '80s is the '50s. outside of that i think, one of our options out of business, as you were saying, is dominated by media companies is the internet. essentially that's kind of a change out of that. i'm a child of the '80s, grew up in the suburbs. the city totally had the adventures of babysitting kind of impression and all the other things. but i love the '90s. they are seems like there's some independence there. and clinton came out of that and maybe we have a way out of what they're basically eating as which is based in what advertisers want. >> let me go first then you get the final answer. the only thing i want to say is i want nathan to answer the
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bigger question. the question of the 30 year cycle. when i first started writing the book, or started thinking about writing this book, i almost didn't write this book because if i come to the conclusion that that's what was going on, and that's an interesting. just every 30 years, things recycle, and find. that's like a piece of paper. that's not a book. but what this book and maybe this presentation isn't heavy on but you can get a feeling for, whether it's a lot in the book is real data about what changed in the 1980s and what has not changed since then. that jimmy is the most troubling kind of thing. that when you look at our views on the military from 1982 today, there's a sharp curve and in a flat line. when you look at the question about what kids priorities are, there's a sharp line up towards money, and in a flat line.
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when you look at sociologists views on narcissism, self-indulgence, narcissistic personality disorder, there's a sharp line up and in a flat line. so, i think it's too easy to say that everything that is old comes back again. and the political message of this book is that, that flat line and that there hasn't been at least in my mind anybody introducing, and i shouldn't say any. but the dominant narrative has not changed from the 1980s. that we elect people who say they're moving in the politics for change, and what we get are people who are saying i will change within the dominant narrative. i will be less militarily stake, but i'm still going to be a militarist. i will be less greed is good but i'm still going to say to wall
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street ceos it's good they make as much money as they can. so what i am troubled by, without giving away the conclusion of the book, but the reason i wrote this book was to say that it's not just the old 30 year cycle, it's not just this back and forth of american politics. we are in a stasis and until we realize that what got us to this stasis was a departure from where we were going, realize it wasn't change. we can't realize necessarily that we have choice, we have a choice of a different direction. >> and then to get back to what you were saying about the internet, i think the internet especially social networking sites are fasting. on one hand they are tools that bring people together. twittered u.k. thousands of followers. i think it's interesting the word follower. it has a hierarchical, sort of prophet like quality.
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sort of merited by my thoughts. facebook at the same time it's a kind of way to connect them bond with people you've never met. it's interesting how quickly, facebook is a good example where facebook, the system that was a superstar. then over the course of the last year and a half it became, you know, a superstar, he became an overachiever. they became a 26 year old guy, he was the times man of the year. which was delightfully pandering. and also kind of tapping into this kind of widespread narcissism of this idea on the most important person in the world. i think comes back to 1980 when we can all be michael jordan. then something very appealing about that upward mobility. i think it takes on a much more
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on this connotation. >> so i just want to thank everybody for coming. i really appreciate everybody coming. and i want to thank indian time for organizing this. i want to thank university of illinois at chicago for having us here. and i want to thank nathan, and want to remind you that he's going to door-to-door selling his book, the big rewind. if he doesn't come to your door, make sure to get his book. as i said, it's one of the inspirations for my own book. he is one of, not to be too much of a morse blackmon, but he's one of the people that i do follow so i hope you will, too. and again, thank you all for coming. i appreciate it. [applause]
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>> for more information visit >> recently booktv spoke with south caroline jason ryan, the author of "jackpot" during our tour of south carolina. >> we are in the marshes outside charleston, south carolina, about 30 miles north of the city. these marshes have been potty with a number of outlaws. first pirates such as blackbird used the nearby rivers to hide. then this blockade runners bring in new supplies to confederate troops but after that and early 20th century it was the rum runners smuggling and uncle. more recent instead and 80 it was the marijuana smugglers who use these marshes bring in ton after ton of pot. it wasn't an easy job. as you can see the tides can change drastically.
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we have a much that we difficult to walk through when coming to grab bales of pot being unloaded from a boat. they would make their way through the capillaries hoping not to get their boat stuck in the mud. if they made it to shore, men were waiting to grab all other drugs, quickly put them on trucks and bring them to nearby highways. then a soft of major cities to be distributed in the kingpins got rich. >> what are you reading this summer, booktv wants to know. >> what i am reading this summer, number one is the road to file to my gate. michael takes on a wild, hellish firsthand tour of the neighborhoods where the terror group hezbollah's dwells in and around lebanon from direct confrontation with members of hezbollah to being in the middle
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of israel 2006 war against a group of this is a thrill ride of the book. i can't put it down. he is the impeccable work and his -- he is a brave, brave journalist to another book, will take up a lot of my beach time, the legacy of islamist anti-semitism. and lastly i would love to dig into power, faith and fantasy. it is the history of american involved in the middle east. very timely to say the least. >> visit to see this and other summer reading lists. >> robert rosen spoke with booktv in our recent trip to charleston, south carolina, about his book.
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>> i wrote this book because when i wrote the book about charles i was surprised that the jewish community was so -- usually don't associate the jews with confederacy. but, in fact, i think the truth is hundreds of thousands of jews, not hundreds of thousands, but 150,000 jews came to america in 1840s. and they were german. they spoke driven. they're mostly immigrant. and 25,000 came to the south. not a law. very small number of people but they're mostly in charleston, savannah, new orleans, richmond. they were merchants, peddlers. they work in saloons. they really were not well-to-do people. they were a new immigrant. they were i think surprised by the fact that they were so accepted, that people allow them to conduct business. they could though, they were treated as equals.
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they could open the house of worship. when the war came the which is quite regular southerners. i think the story is a nonstory. in other words, they were here. they got caught up in the excitement of the succession, all the reason why southerners went to war. and enlisted and they fought. so you find them everywhere. you find them in the infantry. you find them, a few in the cavalry. you find it in the artillery. you find them spread out. the whole story is they were just like everyone else. but they were for the most part immigrants. and so they tended to associate with each other, with other german speakers, but they really try to, the irish for example, have the older grades and regiments, but the jews really try to spread out and fit in. and so, you know, they thought they were fighting for the country, for their state. they went to war for the same
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reasons other white southerners went to war. but they also went to war for a special reason. jews without of those people who are not loyal to the country they lived in. there was discrimination. they wanted to show they would fight, that they would stand up and be counted as citizens. and while not publicly correct today, can be identified with confederacy. the truth is these men were fighting for reasons that people generally find, out of patriotism, loyalty, a sense of duty. and so they did fight, and some of them, even achieved a high rank. on the cover of my book is a colonel of the alabama 12th. so they were accepted generally by the confederates but i think this is a story that wasn't told and people find it a little hard to believe. when my book came out, the new york magazine said what were they thinking?

Book TV
CSPAN July 31, 2011 8:15am-10:00am EDT

David Sirota Education. (2011) David Sirota. ('Back to Our Future How the 1980s Explains the World We Live in Now...')

TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 16, Michael Jordan 14, Ronald Reagan 11, Charleston 9, Dawson 9, Vietnam 8, South Carolina 6, Chicago 6, America 6, George Bush 5, Bill Clinton 5, Marty Mcfly 3, Libya 3, Afghanistan 3, Hanoi 3, John Hughes 3, Michael J. Fox 2, Rambo 2, Hezbollah 2, United States 2
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